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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Brattleboro Goes Fourth - A Review

Hats off and a big thanks to the organizers and donors that made Brattleboro Goes Fourth happen this year. It was in many ways a perfect Independence Day.

First, the weather cooperated. Tuesday was neither too hot, nor too cool, with no rain, and just occasional clouds. It helped all the planned activities go off without a hitch.

The parade, which was a bit lacking last year, sprung back to life in 2017. It’s an essential feature for me, and I love that it is real and local. With the exception of some radio stations, a TV show, and a bit of bible thumping, it isn’t a parade trying to sell you anything. It’s just a snapshot of who we are at this moment in time.

I like that it is families and friends, and enjoy seeing people assemble. There are occasional smatterings of applause as runners make their way toward finish lines. Once things are officially underway, the parade marchers are watching the crowds as much as the crowds are watching the parade.

Most of the participating units were lively this year, with the baton twirlers really tossing those batons and the little leaguers using their best pitching and throwing skills to send candy soaring. (In some years, excess heat can drain marchers of energy.)

We have no tiny trucks with fez-wearing drivers, but we did have an enormous flag being carried down the street, and multiple marching bands.

The tennis club, in my view, gets this year’s creativity award, with members playing a round of tennis over the banner being carried down the street. Clever and difficult, especially for the person walking backward and returning volleys.

The dance school had many participants, but only one or two seemed to be dancing at all, which seems to be an annual trend.

There were many young bike riders with fabulously-decorated bikes - seemingly more than last year. Politicians marched, as did some of the Brattleboro Selectboard (who also seemed to gain a few new members for the day.) There were cheers for WVEW, Brooks Memorial Library, and the perennially charming Holton Home.

The number of police and fire vehicles seemed ample, and firefighters in formation always gets cheers from this crowd.

Notes for future improvement:
- the pre-parade tiny flag handout ran out of tiny flags near the end of the parade route.
- where were NECCA and NEYT?
- more floats!
- more live music!
- hey Dance School dancers - choreograph something!


Mid-day for some is a trip to Living Memorial Park, but I’m in the crowd that heads over around 8 or 8:30 pm. This year, we cleaned up, got the grill going, set up the garden train with some American flags, and had food with family and friends.

At one point in the afternoon, we saw the Discovery channel people (and their golden vehicle driven in the parade) driving up and down the street filming Vbike bike riders and supplying them with a fresh supply of car exhaust as they did it.


As darkness fell, the pilgrimage to the hillside in Living Memorial Park begins. At first it is just a few people heading in that general direction, then the crowds build. By the time we reach Creamery Bridge, the pace quickens, and it feels like we’re in a stream going over the bridge to the park.

Glow sticks were on full display this year, and the crowd seemed to be making maximum use of them. The smell of fried dough caused a line to their truck that never ended. This event could have three fried dough trucks side by side and still have lines. We must have fried dough.

Brattleboro police, fire and rescue folks kept an eye on everyone’s safety.

Old, familiar crowd favorites were played by the band. The band’s horn section (is this a new addition?) made a big difference. Kudos to them for punching up cover versions of Play That Funky Music and Brickhouse. (Note to sound engineer - the guitar solos were a bit low... they can go much hotter in the mix next time.)

It’s fun to be in such a big crowd, for a common purpose of watching colorful explosions. I enjoy watching the very small children run around in a very independent fashion, sometimes allowed to carry hot sparking metal sticks!

I like watching the teens, acting independent as young adults but still not independent enough to avoid assembling in herds of friends.

I like when the lights light up the field, and also when they are cut, dramatically, as the first fireworks are launched.

This year’s new show elements included what seemed to be some new yellow and orange colors, some very large shells, and quite a few of the sparkling, sizzling displays.

The show arrangers did a great job positioning a nearly full moon in the center of the show. The air was clear, and explosions crackle, boomed, and echoed off hillsides.

In the “encouraging” category, it seemed like much of the crowd had gotten over using cellphones to record the whole show. More people seemed to be watching explosions in the sky directly than through their little screens. There was one notable exception...

Everything started off extremely well... until a few little lights caught our eye.

It looked a bit like a plane far above. Perhaps someone was out flying and wanted to see the show from above? It’s happened before.

But these lights would move, then stop. They were distracting from the fireworks show. What was this?

It became clear that it wasn’t a far off plane or UFO, but a drone hovering over the hillside. It would slide a bit to the left, then right, then it would back off to the side, then dart back out and over to the other side. The red and green lights blinked, and could not be avoided.

Whomever was operating this drone was filming the fireworks, but operating their camera over the heads of a large crowd of people. Had the battery failed, any one of us could have been clipped in the head by a multi-pound falling machine.

It stayed up, but many people seemed to be keeping an eye on the drone overhead throughout the show. It seemed to us that the hillside quieted once the drone activity became obvious.

So, instead of magic, wonderment, and freedom, the Fourth suddenly twisted into thoughts of surveillance. Will future fireworks shows have the sky so littered with drones that there is no point to attend?

It should be easy to track down the culprit - somewhere there is some nice, smooth aerial footage of Brattleboro fireworks, without a drone buzzing around blocking the view.

Great display otherwise, and the multi-finale was a nice touch.


The post-show walk home is another ritual of the day. Do we still have everyone with us? The walk starts out slow and crowded, then slowly disperses the further you get from the park. As we turned down our street, we were all alone.

Quite a day in Brattleboro this 4th of July.


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Signs of the Times

From the SIT crew:

Bernie 2018
Rational Criticism is Patriotic
Smash Capitalism
Health is not a Privilege
Education Not Incarceration
Everyday is earthday
I Am A Person
I Will Not Stay Silent So You Can Feel Comfortable
Project Trans Youth
Respect Existence or Expect Resistance
We Are All Human
Vermont (Heart) Education
People Power
Listening Takes Courage
Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History
Peace Starts With You

and from the Selectboard:

Love Is Patriotic

and from Civil Rights for All:

Love Is The Way Forward
Happy Birthday America


" Love is patriotic" ???????

" Love is patriotic" ??????? What does that even mean?
The signs seemed pretty polite considering what is happening in this country.


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